Friday, March 15, 2013

Replaced Windows Home Server (WHS) with a Synology DiskStation

Over the course of the last year, I've come to the realization that I was going to be switching my Windows Home Server for something else. My issues weren't much different than anyone else's and my reasoning is familiar, but I thought I'd document them here so maybe it will help someone else think through the process and maybe they'll come to the same conclusion in their own situation.

Why I left Windows Home Server:

  • I was on Home Server v1 still because it worked. Home Server 2011 had issues, as far as I had heard on the Interwebnets.
  • Microsoft abandoned the Home Server platform. There was nothing after HS2011.
  • Plug-ins were weak. There were some, and they generally worked. There should have been more. After all, this is a generic server platform underneath. That never materialized.
  • My Shuttle XPC SN68G2 chassis was good enough (after having to replace two capacitors in the power circuit on the motherboard a couple years in), but I was running out of disk space and needed to buy more/new drives. I only had 3.5TB online. Sounds crazy to say that...
  • While I had faith I could bare metal restore a workstation that was backed up to the server, I highly questioned having to rebuild the server. Especially given the lack of support from MSFT, and the eventual lack of support from the Internet community.
Why I went to a Synology NAS:
  • I wasn't willing to go head-long into a full Windows server. That opened me up to other operating systems.
  • I was comfortable with this platform being back-ended by Linux. I didn't think I'd be doing a lot of super, command line or other customization, but I thought if it's based on Linux, there's the possibility of the Internet community turning up some cool things. 
  • No major OS to deal with. It is stripped down so there's less complication and less to be compromised, in theory.
  • Synology builds disk subsystems and NAS platforms for business. That inspires some confidence.
  • Great reviews.
Am I glad I have one now?
  • The management console is great. Seriously, this makes the platform.
  • I was right, by the way. There are some cool things you can do when you get into the guts and homebrew world. There are some restrictions, but you can manipulate things and use common Linux tools. Which is good.
  • The software capabilities of this server is crazy. Synology maintains and supports a dozen different very, very useful plugins that just work. Need a VPN? No problem. Need media streaming? Sure, there are multiple ones to do that. AND, on top of that, there is an active vendor community. I assume Synology works and helps vendors support their platform. It is really great, given where I came from on WHS.
  • Given Synology takes pride in their SOHO, home business. It is the equivalent of Honda racing teams bringing some of that technology to a Civic. It shows. The software is the same software they run on their commercial platforms. You see some of that in the console, but doesn't inhibit a home user in any way.
  • There are apps for Android and iOS to access and manage the server. W00t!
  • It just works. 
What don't I like/what would I like to see?
  • Hardware-based encryption would have been nice. The speed of the server is fine, but start doing a lot of that and I imagine you'd run into issues.
  • I'd love to have a Synology NAS-NAS backup solution that would encrypt the actual data. That way I could park one at my brother-in-law's or parent's house and they could have a server I could put vital data. They both have servers, but there's no option to encrypt the data, so it makes everyone feel a little weird about doing it.
  • That's really it...

Chris